The Hindi comedy-drama series “Panchayat” is perhaps a brilliant reminder of the potential diversity that is possible in presenting Indian stories. With a charm that would often remind every Indian audience of Doordarshan’s ‘Malgudi Days,’ ‘Panchayat’ follows a young city-bred engineer as he takes up a job in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh. Brilliant acting performances, especially by Jeetendra Kumar, Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta, and Chandan Roy, and an exceptional script make Panchayat’s first season a hilarious and thoughtful watch.
‘Panchayat’ Season 1: plot summary – What is the show about?
Unable to get a job after his engineering degree, Abhishek Tripathi takes up the only professional chance he has in hand, to be a panchayat secretary in a remote village named Phulera. Upon arriving with all his necessary luggage and an old motorcycle, Abhishek is greeted by his office assistant, Vikas, and the upa-Pradhan Prahlad. They are also soon joined by the former Pradhan, Brij Bhushan Dubey, who is surprisingly referred to as Pradhan by everyone in the village. Abhishek quickly learns that although the village’s elected head, or Pradhan, on paper, is a woman named Manju Devi, the post, in reality, is held by her husband, Brij Bhushan, who had only made his wife participate in panchayat elections when the government had restricted all seats for female candidates. Abhishek’s days in the village start off terribly as the key to the panchayat office building, which is also his residential quarter, is lost, and the building’s door itself breaks down when the lock is tried to be broken. In a few days, the secretary’s mind gets determined to leave the village somehow, and his close friend Prateek, who works in an engineering firm in the city, suggests that he prepare for the CAT exams while living his solitary life in Phulera away from any distractions. Over the next few months, Abhishek experiences many nuances of village life and its many problems that are very different from his city-life understandings, all while preparing for further education in an MBA.
Major Spoilers Ahead
How does Abhishek gradually settle into his new life in Phulera?
Abhishek struggles from the very initial moment after stepping into the panchayat office, for the dust-laden rooms with stacks of unopened paper files and his own room with hardly any amenities other than basic ones is not something very easy to accept for his urban tastes. The first big setback comes in the form of daily power outages in the village at night when he sits down to study after the day’s work and household duties. Tired of making do with emergency lights and candles, he enlists the help of Vikas to convince the committee to install a solar-powered light in front of the office, and in the process, debunks a years-old myth about a haunted spot in the village. Now starting to settle in, Abhishek buys a revolving chair with comfortable cushions to help him sit and study better, but it soon makes Brij Bhushan feel insecure about his own position in the eyes of the villagers, as he still sits around in his old, less-fancy chair. At the same time, a marriage ceremony is held in Phulera, and Abhishek learns that a village wedding involves everyone’s physical effort, be it a panchayat Pradhan or his secretary. After a day of running around doing chores for the ceremony, Abhishek frustratedly cusses at the bridegroom, whose ego is hurt by it, and he calls for the marriage to be canceled. The altercation is finally solved with the groom cussing back at the secretary, and also taking away his fancy new chair as a gift, to which Brij Bhushan also gladly agrees. When the BDO orders Abhishek to oversee a slogan-painting campaign regarding family planning in the village, he discovers how slogans and their meanings are actually taken with much, perhaps too much, importance. One of the slogans prepared compares the situation of any family having more than two kids to that of piles, and the villagers are enraged over it. Although Brij Bhushan initially agrees to take down the slogans, his wife Manju Devi questions his sternness in supporting the right causes, and Pradhan’s decision changes after this. Brij Bhushan orders the slogan to remain painted on the wall, even when the BDO office informs them that its mandatory status has been removed due to protests in other villages as well. Abhishek’s most difficult time in the village comes a little later, though, when his negligence causes the panchayat computer monitor to get stolen. Seeing his city friends enjoying the weekend, the secretary had bought himself some beer and had forgotten to shut the office door at night. A disappointed Brij Bhushan calls the local police sub-inspector for an investigation, but dismisses him when he suggests that Abhishek himself might have gotten the monitor stolen. Abhishek rants that he has no friends or relatives in the village and has gotten drunk out of this frustration, and Brij Bhushan then organizes a small friendly party for him. As Abhishek now makes real friends who stand by him in a difficult time, he wakes up the next morning to find the monitor returned by the thief along with a note apologizing for the theft, saying that he had thought it to be TV.
What gradually turns Abhishek’s mind towards liking the village is the relationships and connections that he makes with those around him. Despite often being annoyed and hot-headed with Vikas, Prahlad, and Brij Bhushan, he also becomes close to them, especially to the first, as he spends a lot of time with his assistant at the office. The well-mannered Vikas is always supportive of the secretary’s decisions, and he tries his best to give Abhishek good company. Brij Bhushan, too gradually develops a warm and loving relationship with the secretary, although he shows very little of it, like any traditional Indian father figure. As the CAT exams draw nearer, Abhishek goes to the nearest town to get official photographs clicked when an altercation breaks out between Vikas and two rowdy youngsters. The youths try to instigate a fight, but Abhishek avoids the situation despite Vikas’s being ready to rough them up. Abhishek returns to the studio the next day in order to collect his photographs, only to find that they have been deleted by the goons. He still avoids any altercation, but when they call up his mobile number and taunt him, Abhishek can hold on no longer and invites them to a fight the next day. Abhishek reaches the place with Vikas, Prahlad, and Brij Bhushan, but things turn serious when one of the goons pushes the acting Pradhan to the ground. Unable to control his anger anymore, Abhishek throws all worries about his upcoming exams to the wind and starts beating up the goons with a rifle that Prahlad had carried to the fight. After some days, Brij Bhushan and Manju Devi start looking for grooms for the marriage of their daughter Rinky, and the father does not feel like complying with a potential groom’s demand of twenty lakh rupees as dowry. His attention now turns instead towards Abhishek, who claims to never take any dowry even if he lands a high-paying management job after studying at an IIM. As Abhishek prepares for his exam, Brij Bhushan keeps trying to test his intelligence and is always happy with his test results.
The day of the CAT exam finally arrives, but Abhishek returns to the panchayat office with a sulking face, suggesting that the exam did not go well for him. Disappointed, and certain that his wife would not allow Rinky to be married off to a man with a meager 20,000 rupee salary, Brij Bhushan sets out to pursue the other groom despite his steep dowry demand. Over the next several weeks, nothing can get Abhishek over his frustration of scoring badly in the CAT exams, and he finds it difficult even to start his preparations over again. On the eve of Republic Day, the Panchayat starts preparing for a flag hoisting program that would be conducted by Brij Bhushan as the acting Pradhan, despite it being a duty of the official Pradhan. Abhishek goes over to Manju Devi’s house to get some official papers signed, and the woman unknowingly hurts his ego when she says that not everybody can deserve high-paying jobs and positions. Abhishek now, in turn, taunts her, saying that the female Pradhan of the next village herself hoists the flag at ceremonies and also does all official work on her own. This now gradually makes Manju Devi realize the position of respect she holds in society, but one that is never given to her, especially by the male villagers. Tired of always being revered as the Pradhan’s wife, Manju Devi decides to take up her official role and hoist the flag on her own in the Republic Day program. She starts taking help from Abhishek, who teaches her the national anthem, but she struggles to learn it in just two days’ time. Abhishek finally grows tired and frustrated with this job too, and he leaves the Pradhan with Jana Gana Mana on her phone and asks her to learn it on her own. Without anyone teaching her, and despite Brij Bhushan bringing her a new saree for the occasion, Manju Devi admits that she is finding the ordeal too difficult.
‘Panchayat’ season 1: ending explained – How does Abhishek finally get his confidence back?
On January 26th, all the members of the Panchayat initially waited around for Manju Devi but then decided to go ahead with the flag hoisting with Brij Bhushan doing the honors. However, this entire party is soon brought to an unexpected halt when the District Magistrate comes across a poster of the program on the highway with a big photo of Brij Bhushan with the title “Pradhan-pati” (husband of the Pradhan) written next to it. Intending to understand what might be going on in Phulera, as it is a common practice in India to have wives of politicians stand for elections as dummy representatives for their husbands in cases of seats being reserved for women candidates, the DM furiously decides to investigate the scene. Upon reaching the Phulera panchayat, her guess turns out to be correct, and she sternly orders Brij Bhushan to leave the premises. The DM then orders Abhishek to be suspended as he has failed in his duty as a panchayat secretary, but before any such action can be taken, Manju Devi arrives on the scene with a group of other women. She then plays down the situation by hoisting the flag and singing the national anthem on her own. At every place where Manju Devi struggles to remember the words, her husband prompts her from the side. The DM applauds the event, advising Brij Bhushan to help his wife with panchayat duties in a similar manner instead of taking away her right to participate in them.
As an air of celebration breaks out, Abhishek realizes the true meaning of perseverance and not losing faith in one’s own self. Despite struggling to remember the words of the national anthem, Manju Devi had finally overcome her difficulties and had even performed in front of a crowd for the very first time in her life. Thus, the merely literate village Pradhan, taking up her agency in her own hands, became an inspiration for Abhishek, who immediately decided to give himself one more chance. He went back to his studies right away, starting preparation for the CAT exam to be held next year. Right beside the panchayat office had been a tall water tank tower, which Vikas and Abhishek’s other colleagues had asked him to climb for a fantastic view of the village, a view that would definitely make him fall in love, they claimed. Abhishek had never yet done it, though, and only now did he decide to take a look for himself. He climbs up the stairs and pauses to look at the view, but is tremendously disappointed by it as it does not look much different from a view from the ground. However, he quickly realizes that somebody else is on the tower too, and he sees a young woman almost around his own age. The woman introduces herself as Rinky, Manju Devi and Brij Bhushan’s daughter, and the expression on Abhishek’s face clearly suggests that he might have indeed found himself some pleasant company atop the tower, if not someone that has made him fall in love.